“I don’t know what your destiny will be, but one thing I know: the only
ones among you who will be really happy are those who will have sought
and found how to serve.” —Albert Schweitzer
Every now and again during my student years, I felt overwhelmed with my academic assignments and calendar activities. At such times, I sensed a case of the existential blues setting in. These blues were a feeling of brooding restlessness bordering on mild depression about life in general and nothing in particular. As I began to probe the root causes of these feelings, one clear pattern emerged. I was most susceptible to the existential blues during midterms, finals, and major projects, when my entire life’s attention was riveted upon me, myself, and I.
The late Karl Menninger, a noted psychiatrist and author, was once asked what someone should do who feels on the verge of a nervous breakdown. His unexpected response was, “Lock your house, go across the railroad tracks, find someone in need and do something for him.”
None of these three quotes or vignettes proves that serving others is the cure for all that ails you. Certainly there are people who have to contend with chemical and neurological challenges which make it far more difficult to “just be happy.” However, I’m not the first who has observed that the happiest people tend to be those whose lives are not solely fixated upon themselves and their pursuits but on enhancing and blessing the lives of others.
There is something in us that yearns to live for purposes greater than our own and to be part of something greater than ourselves. I have no doubt that this is one reason why Jesus emphasized a servant lifestyle to his disciples, reminding them that “Even the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve . . .” (Mark 10:45) So if you get the existential blues during this difficult year of 2020, take inventory of your life. One great prescription may well be a healthy dose of Christlike service to others.